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BZA Ruling on Marymount's Field Use Comes as a Surprise

In an irony of timing, invitations to a Sept. 30 ribbon cutting ceremony for Field 2 at at Lewinsville Park went out just before the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals on Sept. 16 nixed a shared-use agreement between Marymount University and McLean Youth Soccer. The two entities, both private non-profits, were planning to exchanges Marymount’s limited but exclusive use of the field for the money to pay for its artificial surface.

But the BZA unanimously upheld an appeal from the West Lewinsville Heights Citizens Association, which charged that the Fairfax County Park Authority must apply for a special exception (SE) to the county zoning ordinance to determine if Marymount University’s play can be considered “public use” of the field.

The SE process mandates advertised public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, with a public vote by each.

But despite the BZA reversal, the celebration will proceed on Sept. 30, said Judy Pedersen, public information officer for the FCPA.

“THE BOARD OF ZONING Appeals made the correct decision,” said Adrienne Whyte, chairman of the McLean Citizens Association’s planning and zoning committee.

“The BZA is always very rigorous about applying the law. They are appointed by the circuit court, and they are there to apply the law. The zoning ordinance is the law.”

Spokesmen for the three parties to the field use agreement would not comment on the nature of the financial arrangement between MYS and Marymount to cover the cost of the artificial turf surface and the underlying irrigation system. It is estimated at higher than $500,000.

Pedersen said she has not seen the agreement. Because it exists between two private corporations, “I don’t think it is FOIA-able,” she said when asked if a request under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act could free it up.

“Marymount doesn’t feel it would be appropriate for us to make any comment about a FCPA or BZA decision,” said Shelley Dutton, a Marymount spokesman. “We just need to stand by and see what decisions are made as this moves forward.

“As you know, our agreement is with McLean Youth Soccer. To date, nothing has changed in our understanding of the agreement with MYS,” she said.

“I WAS VERY SURPRISED” by the BZA’s decision, Mendelsohn said. “We relied on staff’s input. It sounded very logical to me. I don’t totally understand why the BZA said what they did, [but] I don’t agree with the BZA most of the time,” he said.

Because its seven members are appointed by Circuit Court judges, “they don’t seem to worry about staying in any set rules,” Mendelsohn said. “They rezone property all the time.”

“[The Board of Supervisors] has sued them before if we disagree with their opinion, or they go into an area that is outside their bailiwick, or make a zoning decision that is not in their area.

“I don’t know that this one applies to that, but we are going to get some input from the County Attorney,” Mendelsohn said.

“This really raises an awful lot of issues.

“Once we get [electric] power to our citizens, we are going to try to answer them.”

“I HAVEN’T SEEN the BZA decision,” said Ted Kinghorn, chairman of McLean Youth Soccer. My understanding is it dealt only with Marymount. I will defer to the county, and what their plans are.

“I don’t have any comment [on who will pay for the turf],” Kinghorn said. “That is between Marymount and ourselves. I am trying to finish [the field] up and turn it over to the kids.

“We have a field safety problem, and field availability problem, in McLean right now, and that is my sole focus,” Kinghorn said.

Because MYS is a not for profit organization, he said, its understanding with Marymount is private.

“An agreement between two private parties, just like if it were between the Kiwanis and the Boy Scouts, would be private between them. It’s got nothing to do with government funding or policy,” he said.

“Why does anybody care? If [the field] is there, and MYS has built the field and added this valuable service creating more opportunity for public use, not less, why does anybody care?

“They should be thankful MYS is building more facilities and making [fields] safer, and more available to our children, and that is what they should support.”

MARYMOUNT, located in Arlington County, has a record freshman class enrollment of 413 this fall. Most plan to study nursing, biology, psychology, or interior design, according to a Marymount recruitment brochure.

Last year, the private college had 2,204 undergraduates,1,500 graduate students, 128 full-time faculty members, and tuition of $16,300 for one academic year. Room and Board is another $7,230 per year. Marymount’s enrollment is 73 percent women and its students come from 43 states and 86 countries.

Of 38 student contributors featured in the brochure, three, or eight percent are from Fairfax County.

“Marymount is a member of NCAA Division III, where student-athletes pursue their goals in an atmosphere that encourages athletic and academic excellence,” says the current brochure for prospective students.

“Marymount athletes play for the love of the game, and the campus community loves to cheer them on!”

But last week, 11 McLean residents told the BZA that Lewinsville Park is ill-equipped to host college play.

It has three porta-johns, but no bathrooms, no permanent bleachers, and no concession stands. Neighbors protested that since May, 2002, when McLean Youth Soccer first proposed the shared use agreement to Dranesville Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn, there had been no opportunity for them to comment.

On Monday of this week, workers from LandTek in Amityville, N.Y., were working to complete installation of an artificial turf surface on Field 2 at Lewinsville Park by Wednesday.

“The goals are here,” one worker said, referring calls to Marty Lyons of LandTek.

Lyons was not available for comment, but the on-site supervisor said he’d been told to “Bring the goals out, bolt them together, and put nets on them. We’re going to try to give it to the kids this Wednesday.”